News and Facts about Cuba

Cuban dissidents push for opening to democracy

Cuban dissidents push for opening to democracy
By Carlos Batista (AFP) – 8 hours ago

HAVANA — Leading dissidents in Cuba have launched a reform plan seeking
a democratic opening in the Americas' only one-party Communist-run state.

More than 40 prominent members of a range of outlawed small parties and
movements signed and issued the document calling for new laws and a
plebiscite as a transition to democracy after more than five decades of

They called upon their more than 11 million fellow Cubans to carry out a
"genuine national dialogue and start the process of legal changes that
exclude no one, so that Cubans can keep the positive things they have
built, and change however they care to, the things they want to change."

Dubbed the "People's Path," the document was signed by dissidents
including Guillermo Farinas, Laura Pollan, Martha , Hector
Maceda, Elizardo Sanchez and .

It calls for Cubans to be restored their of movement inside and
outside Cuba; and for freedoms of the press, association, and religion
to be guaranteed; and for all people to be eligible for elective office
regardless of party affiliation.

"When there is space in which people can participate that will be
created by legal changes, citizens' rights to national dialogue will be
respected and free elections will be called for all public posts and an
assembly to rewrite the constitution," the plan text adds.

"The document was drawn up by all of us who have signed, and I think it
is viable and a necessary message to the Cuban people," said Paya, who
won the 2002 Sakharov rights prize for an earlier initiative seeking
democratic opening that he spearheaded.

Called the Warela Plan, that initiative tried to start reform using the
current constitution as a starting point; the government rejected it
outright. It did however receive public praise from former US
Jimmy Carter that year on his first visit to Cuba.

Later the Cuban government pushed through a constitutional reform that
makes socialism "irrevocable."

There was no immediate Cuban government reaction to Wednesday's

Havana however denies that it has political prisoners, and routinely
smears dissidents as "mercenaries" in the pay of the United States.

International attention on Cuba's situation tends to rise
and fall quickly.

But the February 2010 death of demonstrator Orlando ,
who died on a hunger strike protesting conditions, did draw a
vocal international outcry.

Revolutionary icon , now 84, back in 2006 and then ailing,
stepped aside after just under five decades in power. His brother
President , now 80 and the island's longtime military chief,
as Cuba's leader has firmly rejected political opening and meaningful
economic reform.

The isolated Caribbean country's centrally planned is in a
shambles, propped up largely by support from Havana's top regional ally
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

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